Tuesday, June 30, 2009

By Yoo's Own Analysis, Army Field Manual Allows Torture with Drugs

Originally posted at Firedoglake

Sometimes people can be too smart for their own good.

According to recent news stories (see Spencer Ackerman's article in the Washington Independent), the Obama administration task force on interrogations is likely to recommend "small, mixed-agency teams for interviewing the most important terrorist targets." Moreover, according to former Deputy Attorney General and Intelligence Science Board member Philip Heymann:

... interrogators from across the military, CIA, and FBI, would be charged with creating a "syllabus" of best interrogation practices that fall within the boundaries of the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogations, which complies with the Geneva Conventions.

Obama's reliance on the most recent iteration of the Army Field Manual, which went into effect in September 2006, has been the subject of a number of critiques by myself, and by human rights organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights, Center for Constitutional Rights, and Amnesty International. Its Appendix M allows for use of psychological torture techniques, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and partial sensory deprivation.

The main text of the AFM also changed the wording from the previous Army Field Manual as regards the use of drugs on prisoners, and did so in a way that allowed greater latitude for drugs that cause disruption of the senses and temporary psychosis. You'd think this was the brainchild of someone like John "Crush the Testicles" Yoo, but you'd be wrong.

In Yoo's famous memo, dated March 14, 2003, addressed to to William Haynes, then General Counsel at the Department of Defense, Yoo supposedly was answering Haynes/DoD's questions concerning "both domestic and international law that might be applicable to the conduct of... interrogations" of "alien unlawful combatants held outside the United States." Upon public release of the memo, it seemed to many as if Yoo were advocating an "anything goes" attitude towards torture and interrogations.

Accountability for Death by Torture

A number of bloggers, writing as part of an ACLU-initiated campaign to bring accountability for torture -- by stopping the drive for reconstituted military commissions and indefinite detention, and getting an independent prosecutor to investigate and bring charges against those who planned and implemented torture -- are highlighting the issue of deaths by torture under the Bush regime.

Read the selections below, then go to the ACLU site and do something to make a difference! They've got simple web tools that will help you do everything from write a letter to the editor to post on Facebook.


Glenn Greenwald has written The suppressed fact: Deaths by U.S. torture
The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody -- at least. While some of those deaths were the result of "rogue" interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that's one reason we've always considered those tactics to be "torture" when used by others -- because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people. Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions -- that we Look to the Future, not the Past -- are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.
Marcy Wheeler has written 04-309: Death from Torture
Now I'm no doctor--and I definitely can't make sense of the cardiac findings. But it sounds like "stress positions," "sleep deprivation," "walling," and "water dousing" are all leading candidates to have caused the death of 04-309. Or, to use the terms used for techniques approved for use by one Special Forces group in Iraq until May 18, 2004, about a month after 04-309's death, "safety positions," "sleep adjustment/sleep management," "change of environment/ environmental manipulation," and "mild physical contact." It doesn't really matter what you call the techniques, though, because they amount to torture that--in the case of an apparently healthy 27 year old man--appear to have killed him in three days time.

A lot of people--from the CIA to Cheney to the torture apologists--want this debate to be about waterboarding, a technique they've only admitted to using with three detainees, and a technique that--as far as we know--did not kill anyone in US custody. But that distracts from the other techniques that just as much torture, the ones that were killing Iraqi civilians in a matter of days.
drational, at Daily Kos, has written Torture Autopsy Reveals Death by Enhanced Interrogation
Habibullah was being interrogated by the military. Upon autopsy he was clothed only in an adult diaper. Because he was taken from his cell to the Bagram medical facility "dead on arrival" it is likely he was wearing a diaper when he was found "unresponsive, restrained in his cell" (hanging shackled from the ceiling). This is consistent with the nudity and use of diapering during "sleep deprivation" approved by Rumsfeld and described as part of the protocols for CIA interrogation during one technique: sleep deprivation- in which the detainee is shackled standing or sitting for up to 7 1/2 days straight. We have learned from the 2005 Bradbury memos that sleep deprivation causes venous stasis in the legs and has led to severe leg edema. We know that Habibullah was shackled to the ceiling of his cell for sleep deprivation, where he was ultimately found dead. This scenario is reinforced by a citation of a DOD criminal investigation report in the recently released Senate Armed Services Committee Report on Detainee Treatment (PDF). This citation noted that "the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment at the hands of Bagram personnel, caused or were direct contributing factors in the two homicides [Habibullah and Dilawar]."
And for pure beauty of exposition, don't miss bmaz's article, On the Rule of Law and Crimes of Torture.
What do you say to citizens who say we cannot have accountability, cannot address what has been done in our name because now is:
...not the time to let fly the dogs of revenge. With all the pressing issues facing this country and the world right now, tearing the country apart would be a terrible thing to do. Iran, North Korea, the Middle East, Health Care, Energy, the deficit, imigration, etc. It would be insane to do so.
The Founders gave us the answer to that conundrum. You follow the Rule of Law. You uphold the Constitution, what it stands for, and honor every drop of blood spilled since the Revolution to establish and defend it. You honor your oath to office. You do the right thing and have accountability on the merits. That is what you do, and it is time for a concerted effort from the grassroots to demand just that. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would give up the essential Rule of Law for temporary security and political gain, deserve neither.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Human Rights Groups Critique APA's Recent Statement on Interrogations

From an announcement by psychologist and human rights/anti-torture activist Stephen Soldz:
Today a number of psychological, health, and human rights organizations released the following statement criticizing the American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Directors failure to accept responsibility for the APA’s role in facilitating psychologists' participation in abusive national security interrogations. The coalition statement responds to a June 18 open letter from the APA Board acknowledging for the first time that psychologists have engaged in torture, but making no reference to the APA Board’s own apparently unanimous support extending over several years for psychologists’ right to participate in detainee interrogations.
What follows is the text of the statement:
Open Letter in Response to the American Psychological Association Board

On June 18, 2009, the American Psychological Association [APA] Board issued an Open Letter on the subject of psychologists' involvement in abusive national security interrogations. The letter is among the first formal acknowledgements from APA leadership that psychologists were involved in torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. We welcome this progress.

Similarly, the letter acknowledges APA’s member-initiated referendum prohibiting psychologist participation in detention centers that are in violation of international law and overturning APA Council’s repeated refusals to do so. This is an improvement over very recent messages from APA officials that characterized press descriptions of APA policy as supporting psychologist participation in such interrogations as "fair and balanced."

Nevertheless, the letter is profoundly disappointing. It continues the long tradition of APA leaders minimizing the extent of psychologists’ involvement in state-sanctioned abuse as well as APA’s own defense of such involvement. The authors speak as though the information about psychologist’s involvement in torture is fresh news even though it has been available for a long time. Even now, the Board relies on the Bush Administration tactic, employed in the Abu Ghraib debacle, of blaming the abuse on a "few bad apples." This minimization of the greatest ethical crisis in our profession’s history by those who claim to lead the profession is unacceptable. Similarly the APA Board continues to take no responsibility for its own grievous mismanagement of this issue. Instead, the tone of the letter suggests we should all come together and “reflect and learn,” because this has been difficult for all of us, collectively. The Board also presumes the authority to continue to speak for psychologists in the future with neither redress nor evidence of remediation for what they have done:
This has been a painful time for the association and one that offers an opportunity to reflect and learn from our experiences over the last five years. APA will continue to speak forcefully in further communicating our policies against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to our members, the Obama administration, Congress, and the general public. [Board letter, June 18, 2009.]
Any meaningful approach to this issue must start by acknowledging the fact that psychologists were absolutely integral to our government's systematic program of torture. When the Bush administration decided to engage in torture, they turned to psychologists from the military's SERE [Survival, Evasion, resistance, and Escape] program for help in designing and implementing the torture tactics. This fact was first reported in 2005, within days of the release of the APA's PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] report and was officially acknowledged by the Defense Department in its Inspector General's Report, declassified in May 2007. Other psychologists monitored torture to calibrate how much abuse a detainee could tolerate without dying. Nonetheless, APA leaders continued, and still continue, to pretend that psychologists' participation in abuse was the behavior of rogue members of the profession.

Similarly, the APA Board still refuses to acknowledge the evidence of apparent collusion between APA officials and the national security apparatus in providing ethical cover for psychologists’ participation in detainee abuse. This collusion was most notable in the creation of the military-dominated PENS task force. Only a policy that comes to terms with this APA collusion can begin to reduce the furor among APA members, psychologists, and the general public.

APA leadership has much work ahead to begin to repair the harm they have caused to the profession, the country, former and current detainees and their families. At a minimum the APA leadership should do the following:

1. Fully implement the 2008 referendum as an enforceable section of the APA Code of Ethics. This entails a public announcement that APA policy and ethical standards oppose the service of psychologists in detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Bagram Air Base, CIA secret prisons, or in the rendition program.

2. Annul the June 2005 PENS Report due to the severe and multiple conflicts of interest involved in its production.

3. Bring in an independent body of investigative attorneys to pursue accountability for psychologists who participated in or otherwise contributed to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. APA should also: (a) clarify the status of open ethics cases and (b) remove the statute of limitations for violations involving torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, so as to allow time for information on classified activities to become public.

4. Develop a clear and rapid timetable to remove Sections 1.02 and 1.03 [the " Nuremberg defense" of following orders] from the APA Code of Ethics. [We note that the APA Ethics Committee has stated that they will not accept a defense of following orders to complaints regarding torture; this statement is a welcome improvement but it is clearly inadequate as it is not necessarily binding on future committees nor does it cover abuses falling under the category of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.] Revoke the equally problematic Section 8.05 of the Code, which dispenses with informed consent "where otherwise permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations," and Section 8.07, which sets an unacceptably high threshold of "severe emotional distress" for not using deception in the ethics of research design.

5. Retain an independent investigatory organization to study organizational behavior at APA. Due to potential conflicts of interest, independent human rights organizations should be enlisted to select this investigatory entity. The study should address, among other things, possible collusion in the PENS process and the 2003 APA-CIA-Rand conference on the Science of Deception, attended by the CIA's apparent designers of their torture program [James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen] during which "enhanced interrogation" techniques were discussed. The study should explore how the APA governance system permits the accumulation of power in the hands of a very small number of individuals who are unresponsive to the general membership. It should also propose measures to return the APA to democratic principles, scientific integrity, and beneficence, including restructuring for greater transparency and the assimilation of diverse viewpoints.

These five steps will not remove the terrible stain on the reputation of American psychology. However, by taking these steps the APA leadership would make both symbolic and substantive progress toward accountability for psychologists' contributions to detainee abuse and the APA's failure to adequately respond to the public record. These actions would constitute an important step toward rehabilitating the Association and restoring the good name of the profession itself.

Signed by:

Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Physicians for Human Rights
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Center for Constitutional Rights
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Network of Spiritual Progressives
National Lawyers Guild
Amnesty International USA
Program for Torture Victims, Los Angeles
American Friends Service Committee, Pacific Southwest Region
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles
Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture (MACAT)
New York Campaign Against Torture (NYCAT)

For More Information, Contact:
Stephen Soldz

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Little Night Music

"Spiegel Im Spiegel," by Avro Part (with slideshow)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top U.S. Behavioral Scientists Studied Survival Schools to Create Torture Program Over 50 Years Ago

Cross-posted from The Public Record

A couple of recent articles have highlighted the unseemly fact that some past presidents of the American Psychological Association (APA), the foremost professional organization for psychologists in the United States, if not the world, had links to the use of torture, or at least to military research into coercive interrogations.

An article by Jane Mayer in the recent New Yorker on CIA Director Leon Panetta noted in passing the participation of a former APA president Joseph Matarazzo on the governing staff of the Mitchell, Jessen & Associates (MJA) torture firm. First identified as one of the "governing people" of MJA by Bill Morlin in a Spokesman Review article in August 2007, Matarazzo is now known to have also been CIA, as noted in an article by Physicians for Human Rights Campaign Against Torture director, Nathaniel Raymond (emphasis added):

Mayer notes, parenthetically, that she has learned from the CIA's Kirk Hubbard that former American Psychological Association president Joseph Matarazzo sat on the CIA's professional-standards board at the time when psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were developing an interrogation program for the CIA, based on the US military's SERE training program.

This new information came at the same time as former APA insider Bryant Welch was publishing his own tell-all about APA and the Defense Department, Torture, Psychology, and Daniel Inouye. Welch singled out former APA presidents Gerald Koocher and Ron Levant, along with Senator Daniel Inouye's office, as key lobbyists for the participation of psychologists in interrogations (emphasis added):

One of Inouye's administrative assistants, psychologist Patrick Deleon, has long been active in the APA and served a term in 2000 as APA president. For significant periods of time DeLeon has literally directed APA staff on federal policy matters and has dominated the APA governance on political matters. For over twenty-five years, relationships between the APA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been strongly encouraged and closely coordinated by DeLeon.

Another famous former APA president, Martin Seligman, was also linked with the government's recent torture program. According to Jane Mayer, Seligman taught his "learned helplessness" theories to the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape or SERE psychologists, who reverse-engineered it into the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" used by the CIA and DoD to torture prisoners in "war on terror" prisons around the world. Seligman admitted lecturing at SERE, but has denied any role in torture.

The role of former APA presidents DeLeon, Koocher, Levant, Seligman, and Matarazzo in supporting the role of military psychologists in interrogations, even after evidence of torture by the U.S. government was manifest, is perhaps unequalled in the annals of professional societies, as providing political, and possibly organizational and theoretical or practical support to unethical procedures, especially torture. (Stephen Soldz has outlined some of this recent history in an article just posted at ACLU Blog of Rights.) One might think this a terrible offshoot of the former Bush administration's insane post-9/11 turn to the "dark side."

But that is not the end of the story; it is not even the beginning.

Before this set of military/CIA-collaborationist APA presidents, there was Harry Harlow, and before him, Donald Hebb. Both were famous, distinguished U.S. psychologists, and both had been presidents of the APA in the 1950s. Both engaged in research, some of it secret, for the military and CIA. Hebb was a pioneer in the study of sensory deprivation. Harlow's contribution was more synthetic: he helped construct an entire paradigm around the problem of how to break down an individual by torture.

In 1956, in the pages of an obscure academic journal, Sociometry, I.E. Farber, Harry F. Harlow, and psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West published a classic work on interrogation, Brainwashing, Conditioning, and DDD (Debility, Dependency, and Dread) (BCD). It was based on a report for the Study Group on Survival Training, paid for by the U.S. Air Force. (See West LJ., Medical and psychiatric considerations in survival training. In: Report of the Special Study Group on Survival Training (AFR 190 16). Lackland Air Force Base, Tex: Air Force Personnel and Training Research Centers; 1956.) This research linked Air Force "Survival" training, later called SERE, with torture techniques, and as we will see, use of such techniques by the CIA, something we would see again decades later in the Mitchell-Jessen "exploitation" plan.

BCD examined the various types of stress undergone by prisoners, and narrowed them down to "three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread".

Debility was a condition caused by "semi-starvation, fatigue, and disease". It induced "a sense of terrible weariness".

Dependency on the captors for some relief from their agony was something "produced by the prolonged deprivation of many of the factors, such as sleep and food... [and] was made more poignant by occasional unpredictable brief respites." The use of prolonged isolation of the prisoner, depriving an individual of expected social intercourse and stimulation, "markedly strengthened the dependency".

Dread probably needs no explanation, but BCD described it as "chronic fear.... Fear of death, fear of pain, fear of nonrepatriation, fear of deformity of permanent disability.... even fear of one's own inability to satisfy the demands of insatiable interrogators."

The bulk of BCD explains the effects of DDD in terms of Pavlovian conditioning and the learning theories of American psychologist Edward Thorndike. The consequence of the resulting "collapse of ego functions" is described as similar to "postlobotomy syndrome".

By disorganizing the perception of those experiential continuities constituting the self-concept and impoverishing the basis for judging self-consistency, DDD affects one's habitual ways of looking at and dealing with oneself. [p. 275]

BCD explains aspects of the U.S. torture program that otherwise to our eyes appear insane. (Not that it isn't on a moral level "insane.") Take the painful stress positioning of prisoners documented at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run detainee prisons -- most recently, at Bagram prison in Afghanistan. BCE explains: it's all part of inducing dependency through expectation of relief, but in a diabolical way. Forced stress positions are a "self-inflicted punishment", one which increases the expectancy of relief via "voluntary" means. But the latter is "delusory... since the captor may select any behavior he chooses as the condition for relieving a prisoner's distress" [pp. 276-277].

This form of carrot and stick torture may not seem that sophisticated, but it is the use of basic nervous system functioning and human instinctual need that makes it "scientific". The need for sensory stimulation and social interaction, the need to eat, to sleep, to reduce fear, all of these are used to build dependencies upon the captor, using the fact that "the strengthening effects of rewards -- in this instance the alleviation of an intensely unpleasant emotional state -- are fundamentally automatic" [p. 278]. This impairment of higher cognitive states and disruption and disorganization of the prisoner's self-concept, producing something like "a pathological organic state", was subsequently modified and used by the CIA in its interrogations of countless individuals. If more brutal forms of torture sometimes were used, especially by over-eager foreign agents or governments, DDD remained the gold standard, the programmatic core of counterintelligence interrogation at the heart of the CIA's own intelligence manuals.

Chapter Nine of the 1963 CIA KUBARK manual, "Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources," describes coercive interrogation procedures as "designed to induce regression."

The anonymous authors of KUBARK quote the BCD article specifically:

Farber says that the response to coercion typically contains "... at least three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread." Prisoners "... have reduced viability, are helplessly dependent on their captors for the satisfaction of their many basic needs, and experience the emotional and motivational reactions of intense fear and anxiety"....

The subheads to the chapter are evocative of the DDD paradigm: "Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli", "Threats and Fear", "Debility", "Pain", "Heightened Suggestibility and Hypnosis", and "Narcosis". That this was all constructed, in part, by the demented genius of a famous U.S. psychologist and former president of the APA only contributes to a deep, dark irony that runs like a blood-red gash through the body politic of this country.

The 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual was lauded for banning the beating of prisoners, threatening them with dogs, sexual humiliation, performing mock executions, electrocution of prisoners, and waterboarding, among other "techniques." But in an appendix to the manual, the following procedures are authorized for certain prisoners: complete separation, sometimes with forced wearing of goggles and earmuffs, for up to 30 days (after which approval for more must be sought); limiting sleep to four hours a day, for 30 straight days (and more, with approval); and other concurrent techniques, including "futility", "incentive", and "fear up harsh". In the latter, fear within a detainee is significantly increased, through knowledge of the person's phobias, if possible.

In the press, and in the speeches of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the new AFM was praised as a model of reform. The CIA was urged to embrace the AFM's policies, but has demurred. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is studying the interrogation issue, but so far has advocated the AFM be the government-wide interogation standard. Why, one wonders, as it's evident the AFM has maintained a core DDD operational capacity (isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, fear)? The Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other human rights organization have called publicly for the Obama administration to rescind Appendix M and other offensive sections of the Army Field Manual.

It is important that all elements of the U.S. torture program be exposed and made illegal. If the country can not rise morally to this, then a terrifying future lies before us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Two Psychologists at ACLU Blog of Rights

Psychologist-activists Stephen Soldz and Trudy Bond have published two excellent articles at the ACLU Blog of Rights, giving important contributions about the role of psychologists and the American Psychological Association in the U.S. torture program. The postings are related to the Accountability for Torture campaign initiated by the ACLU. While I'm posting some excerpts here for my readers, I strongly recommend clicking through the links below to read these articles in their entirety.

Can the American Psychological Association Break With Torture Collusion?, by Stephen Soldz
One might expect that claims that psychologists were central actors in the administration’s well known program of torture and detainee abuse would have mobilized APA leaders to assess the veracity of the claims, to take measures to stop this involvement in torture, and to punish perpetrators from among the profession. Unfortunately, the APA leadership took a different path. They decided to use the opportunity to curry favor with the military/intelligence establishment and the Bush administration. Thus, they moved to encourage, indeed to assert, the necessity of having psychologists aiding these investigations.

In a recent book chapter, "Closing Eyes to Atrocities" (in Ryan Goodman & Mindy Jane Roseman’s book Interrogations, Forced Feedings, and the Role of Health Professionals: New Perspectives on International Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, and Ethics) I outlined several modes of response to the issue of psychologist involvement in abusive interrogations by APA leadership. In brief, these modes of response, described in the approximate chronological order in which they were rolled out, were:

Identification with the Aggressor in which APA leaders moved quickly after 9/11 to seek funding (for the psychology profession, not the organization) from and influence with the administration and the military/intelligence establishment. They staged joint conferences with the CIA and other security agencies on interrogations and related topics and by extensive lobbying of intelligence officials.

Rigging the Process in which an ethics task force (Psychological Ethics and National Security or PENS) was created which was secretly dominated by a majority of psychologists from the military/intelligence community, four (out of 10) of whom had served in chains of command accused of abuses, to endorse an apparently already adopted "policy of engagement" in military and CIA interrogations.


We are No Different Than Others....

Parsing Pain....

Repressive Tolerance and Endless "Dialog"....

Since I composed this list, recent revelations — including release of the Office of Legal Counsel memos, the declassification of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on interrogations, and statements to NPR by a member of the PENS "ethics" task force defending SERE-based interrogations — have led the APA to adopt a new response, the "We are Shocked!" response in which they act as if they just discovered that, perhaps, a few psychologists did indeed aid the torture regime and they suddenly realize that some members might (unjustly) blame them for years of collusion and inaction.
Controlled Insanity, by Trudy Bond
I initially filed an ethics complaint against Leso, complete with documentation, with the APA on April 15, 2007. It wasn’t until February of 2008 that my complaint was finally, officially acknowledged. The U.S. government admitted al-Qahtani was tortured when Susan J. Crawford, convening authority of military commissions at Guantánamo, stated unequivocally,"We tortured [Mohammed] Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case for prosecution." Leso was instrumental in devising the interrogation plan of Mohammed al-Qahtani, collaborating, colluding and watching as Mohammed al-Qahtani was tortured. APA has been silent since that time, though the complaint against Leso still remains open.

As recently as last week, the APA Board of Directors stated in an open letter, "APA will continue to monitor material in official reports related to psychologist mistreatment of national security detainees, will investigate reports of unethical conduct by APA members, and will adjudicate cases in keeping with our Code of Ethics." More doublethink. The last four presidents of APA, as well as the APA Ethics Director Stephen Behnke, have repeatedly made the same politically correct statement for four years, with absolutely no actions to support their statements. It’s become clear that the APA peddles intellectual contradiction as policy when it comes to torture, with no intent of enforcement.

Indeed, at every turn, the leadership of APA has been defending the role of psychologists in the illegal detention centers. Dr. Boulanger’s recent post describes the response of the APA to torturous interrogations:
Steven Behnke, the Director of Ethics for the American Psychological Association, emphasized the "unique competencies" that psychologists bring to their role in interrogations, and claimed that psychologists who help military interrogators made a valuable contribution. Furthermore, he argued, psychologists play a vital role in safeguarding the welfare of detainees.
When met with the increased public reporting of the collusion of psychologists in the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo and other detention sites, juxtaposed against the ethic "do no harm," APA’s mantra became one of justifying the psychologists’ presence with the above senseless words in an attempt to reduce the dissonance, or more simply, to ratchet up the doublethink. If safeguarding the welfare of the detainees was truly the role of psychologists, many of those psychologists have gravely — and prosecutably — failed. There is story upon story of detainees released after many years of illegal imprisonment with no charges ever being brought against them, prisoners who were abused and tortured. Where were the psychologists who were conscientiously protecting the detainees, keeping the interrogations safe as Dr. Behnke suggests? The answer is: they weren’t.

Rallies for Torture Accountability Day, Thursday, June 25

Hat-tip to David Swanson at AfterDowningStreet.org
Rallies Around U.S. To Demand Accountability for Torture

Thursday, June 25, 2009, has been designated Torture Accountability Action Day by a large coalition of human rights groups planning rallies and marches in major U.S. cities, including a rally in Washington, D.C.'s John Marshall Park at 11 a.m. followed by a noon march to the Justice Department where some participants will risk arrest in nonviolent protest if a special prosecutor for torture is not appointed.

Events are planned in Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, CA; Pasadena, CA; Thousand Oaks, CA; Boston, MA; Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Las Vegas, NV; Honolulu, HI; Tampa, FL; Philadelphia, PA; and Anchorage, AK, with details available online:

In Washington, D.C., groups will maintain literature tables from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at John Marshall Park, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A rally will begin at 11 a.m. with speakers including:

* Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law;
* Njambi Good, Director of Counter Terror with Justice Campaign, Amnesty International USA;
* Enver Masud, Founder and CEO of The Wisdom Fund, recipient of the 2002 Gold Award from the Human Rights Foundation for his book "The War on Islam";
* Max Obuszewski, member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance;
* Marcus Raskin, Cofounder of the Institute for Policy Studies;
* Patricio Rice, torture survivor;
* Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Cofounder of the Partnership for Civil Justice;
* Kevin Zeese, Director of VotersForPeace.US, Board Member of VelvetRevolution.US.
With performances by Jordan Page, Tha Truth, and David Ippolito.

Participants will march at noon to the Department of Justice, where some but not all of the participating organizations will engage in nonviolent resistance if the Attorney General has not yet agreed to appoint a special prosecutor for torture. (Some of the organizations sponsoring the day of rallies do not engage in civil disobedience.)

In Pasadena, Calif., at 12 p.m. PT citizens will submit a formal judicial misconduct complaint against 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, former Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel: Courthouse steps, Chambers Courthouse, 125 South Grand Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105.

Statement of Purpose:

The highest officials in our government have trampled on our traditional ideals of making America a nation of laws, not of men, by illegally narrowing the scope of torture and authorizing waterboarding, walling, and other inhumane interrogation techniques. In doing so, they have violated the Anti-Torture Act, the War Crimes Act, the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.

In order to enforce our laws and restore the free society that our forefathers envisioned, citizens must demand accountability for abuses of the laws pertaining to torture. In the tradition of the Civil Rights movement, change will not occur unless citizens stand up for their rights under the law.

Torture Accountability Action Day Is Sponsored By:

Action Center for Justice
After Downing Street
Amnesty International
Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition
Coalition for Peace Action
Code Pink
Consumers for Peace
Eldoradans Against Torture
Global Exchange
High Road for Human Rights
Hip Hop Caucus
Historians Against the War
Individuals for Justice
Marcus Raskin
National Accountability Network
National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
NJ Peace Action
NJ People's Organization for Progress
Northern Virginians for Peace and Justice
Polygraph Radio
Peace Action
Peace and Justice Forums Billings Montana
Portland Peaceful Response Coalition
Progressive Democrats of America
Project Vote Count
School of the Americas Watch
Senior Action Network
The Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition
US Labor Against War
Veterans for Peace
War Criminals Watch
Washington Peace Center
We Are Change LA
Witness Against Torture
World Can't Wait

Monday, June 22, 2009

Torture News Roundup - U.S. Held al-Queda Torture Victim at Gitmo for 7 Years

Originally posted at Daily Kos

June 25 is Torture Accountability Day. At the close of this diary, you will learn how you can submit evidence of torture to the Department of Justice. You will also learn how you can help initiate a California State Bar investigation of Donald Rumsfeld's torture lawyer, William Haynes.

In today's TNR, we will cover breaking news on a Guantanamo detainee release, and ongoing revelations about the mysterious death of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in a Libyan jail, a story first announced in the U.S. by Daily Kos Torture News Roundup on May 10, following a report by UK journalist Andy Worthington. Meanwhile, the long-awaited release of the CIA's Inspector General report on torture was delayed another week. Other revelations this past week include new information about a leading psychologist working for both the CIA and the Mitchell-Jessen torture firm; a British policy of covering up U.S. torture; ongoing political shenanigans over releasing hundreds of torture photos; human rights reports on torture centers in Zimbabwe; and more.

Top Stories

Judge Orders Release of Syrian Detainee

The court's full opinion can be read here (H/T Stephen Soldz).

The pending release of Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Janko was due to a habeas suit, and the judge's ruling, as you can see drew a rebuke by the judge of the government's position. How many more in Guantanamo or other U.S. prisons, like Bagram, where most prisoners lie outside the reach of habeas corpus, by degree of President Obama, are imprisoned on such flimsy, if not outrageous "evidence." (Quote from Washington Post story below has emphasis added.) Note: the U.S. still has to find Al Janko a safe place to be released. Obama's position, forced, it seems upon him by right-wing Republicans and frightened members of his own party, is that no Guantanamo prisoners will be resettled in the U.S. The issue remains a sore point with many.

From the Washington Post article on the Al Janko habeas decision:
A federal judge today ordered the release of a 30-year-old detainee from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying the government's legal position on his continued confinement "defies common sense."

The detainee, a Syrian held at the military facility since early 2002, was tortured and imprisoned by al-Qaeda and the Taliban before being captured by U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ruled today from the bench that such circumstances make it "highly unlikely" that the Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Janko was still a member of the terror groups.
CIA Delays Release of Inspector General's Report on Torture (Jason Leopold)
The CIA has delayed by one week the release of an inspector general's report on the Bush administration's torture program, the Justice Department said in a letter sent to the American Civil Liberties Union Friday.

In the letter, Lev Dassin, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said the CIA's "reprocessing of the [report] is largely complete. Given the need for inter-agency review of the reprocessed document, however, we will need additional time to make a final determination as to what additional information, if any, may be disclosed from the report"....

The May 2004 report about the agency’s use of torture includes details of how at least three detainees were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Helgerson's still secret findings led to eight criminal referrals to the Justice Department for homicide and other misconduct, but those cases languished as Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly intervened to constrain Helgerson’s inquiries.
See more analysis on the CIA delay at FDL/Emptywheel

See ACLU statement: Obama Administration Should Release CIA Inspector General Report Without Substantial Redactions, Says ACLU
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"It's not surprising that the CIA is fighting for the suppression of documents that would provide further evidence that its torture program was both ineffective and illegal. Over the last few weeks, the agency has also suppressed cables relating to illegal interrogation methods and transcripts in which prisoners explain the torture that was inflicted upon them in the CIA's secret prisons. President Obama should not allow the CIA to determine whether evidence of its own unlawful conduct should be made available to the public. The president has rightly recognized the importance of restoring the rule of law at home and the moral authority of the United States abroad, but neither of those things will be possible as long as the CIA is permitted to conceal evidence of its crimes. The public has a right to know what took place in the CIA's secret prisons, and on whose authority."
Battle Continues Over Release of Secret Photos of Abuse and Torture

Senate Quietly Passes Bill to Hide Torture Evidence

On Wednesday night, the Senate quietly passed legislation to exempt photographs of detainees being tortured by U.S. personnel from the Freedom of Information Act. Further stunning the spirit of open government, they did so by unanimous consent.

Unsurprisingly, the Detainee Records Photo Protection Act of 2009 (S 1285) was sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). Contrary to public statements made by the administration, Graham stated that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made it clear that President Obama wanted to see legislative action to stop the release of the photos.
In an article by Jason Leopold on the vote, it's reported that Sen. Graham got assurances from Emanuel that Obama would issue an executive order to block the photos from ever being released. This promise supposedly ended a filibuster threat by Graham on the defense spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, to which the amendment calling for a block on release of the photos was appended. Graham was worried the House of Representatives would not vote for the ban.

Now, with passage of the war supplemental in both houses of Congress, the issue of the torture photos will be taken up in joint committee. Obama is pushing for inclusion, and Senate Democrats seems willing to oblige. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is opposed to the Lieberman-Graham proposal. We will have to see what comes out in the final bill, but Obama has already promised that, one way or another, these photos will never see the light of day.

When you consider that wanna-be terrorists in the Middle East have seen far worse than anything Americans have seen, in terms of photos of U.S. atrocities from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of torture, etc., then it's clear the only reason to suppress these photos is to control the political agenda domestically, and that is unacceptable.

New Revelations on Psychologists, Contractors and Torture

Nathaniel Raymond at Physicians for Human Rights Blog had an important story this week: New Yorker: Former APA President Worked with CIA and on Board of Mitchell and Jessen (H/T, again, to Stephen Soldz) (emphasis added)
Perhaps the most interesting revelation in Jane Mayer’s latest New Yorker article on the CIA and US torture policy comes as an aside, towards the end. Ongoing investigations by PHR and others, including investigative journalists, are discovering disturbing connections between American Psychological Association officials involved in developing the ethics standards governing psychologists’ participation in interrogations and those involved in overseeing and facilitating the Bush administration’s CIA and US military programs of torture....

Mayer notes, parenthetically, that she has learned from the CIA’s Kirk Hubbard that former American Psychological Association president Joseph Matarazzo sat on the CIA’s professional-standards board at the time when psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were developing an interrogation program for the CIA, based on the US military’s SERE training program. Much more remains to be known about the involvement of Mitchell and Jessen, as well as other psychologists, including former senior APA officials, such as Matarazzo.
For more on APA, see Stephen Soldz's ongoing coverage of how APA is responding to criticisms of their policy on psychologists and interrogation.

For further coverage on the Mitchell-Jessen story this week in From the Blogger's Basement on Jane Mayer by Marcy Wheeler
Mayer also notes something I've been sensing too--that John Durham's investigation into the torture tape destruction may well have to investigate the reasons why the CIA had to destroy the tapes, most notably all the torture they did before OLC had authorized it.
I took up the Mitchell-Jessen story in an article that concentrated on the contractor angle, in “Targets of Opportunity”: Corruption, Contractors, and the Origins of the SERE Torture Program.
According to ProPublica journalist Sheri Fink, Mitchell, Jessen and Associates was recently discovered to have decamped from their Spokane headquarters, and currently share an address with Tate, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. But this isn't the first time the two have been connected. Tate president, David M. Ayers, was listed by Washington State Corporations Division as one of four "governing persons" for the Mitchell-Jessen LLC. Then there's Tate's Director of Training, Roger Aldrich, who was yet another "governing person" for Mitchell-Jessen. Other reports have placed other SERE psychologists besides Mitchell and Jessen as employees for Tate, Inc. Back at JPRA, the TATE employees running around the various departments were referred to derisively as "TaterTots."

The farther one goes with these contractor connections, the denser the thicket. Randall Spivey is president of another private contracting firm working with survival/recovery training, RS Consulting, whose offices are in the same Spokane office building where Mitchell-Jessen long resided. Spivey was the fourth of the primary figures at M-J. [RS Consulting and Mitchell-Jessen also shared phone numbers! -- see here.]
Military Attorneys Fight for Fairness at Torture Trials

Military attorneys risk careers to criticize practices at Guantanamo
The article recounts the story of a number of Guantanamo military attorneys, including the tale of Gitmo prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who saw injustice so severe, he flipped and started working for the defense.
His tipping point came in June, when he came across a statement made by Mr. Jawad in 2002 about mistreatment in Bagram while glancing through a binder with another detainee's records -- a statement he had never seen and did not know existed even though it should have been provided to him.

"There is no way I would have gotten access to that statement" had he not come across it by chance, he said. "That's when I decided I couldn't ethically go on. I just couldn't do it."

For a "millisecond," he said, he thought about putting the binder back. Instead, he faxed the statement to Maj. Frakt, the defense attorney.

After agonizing over his continued role with the Military Commissions, in September he sought reassignment to Afghanistan or Iraq. Instead, he was released from active duty and testified for the defense Sept. 26 after Maj. Frakt ordered a subpoena for his testimony.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09130...
RobinElliot had an email exchange with another attorney profiled in the Post-Gazette article, Major Barry D. Wingard, attorney for long-time Guantanamo prisoner, Fayiz al-Kandari.
To your knowledge, did any private contractors interrogate Fayiz? Who exactly did?
Fayiz was interrogated over four hundred times, sometimes by military, civilians, and combinations thereof. What is interesting is that hundreds of photos were taken of him along with medical records in various stages of being broken physically. Unfortunately all the information above has been classified as top secret for "your protection," it has nothing to do with the exculpatory nature of the evidence.
....Is there anything you or anyone, including Fayiz, can do to lessen the resentment, fear, etc. that's so prevalent?
As long as the US government continues to use justice like a magician uses a rabbit in his show, then no, I have little faith. Currently the government is preparing to create a system "not designed to help me" Fayiz says.

To date, the government has not produced a single tangible piece of evidence against Fayiz, just like Boumedian who was released last week after 7 ½ years. Amazingly Fayiz wants to be released and go home and start a business and a family....
International Torture News

Tony Blair knew of secret policy on terror interrogations
The policy, devised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, offered ­guidance to MI5 and MI6 officers ­questioning detainees in Afghanistan who they knew were being mistreated by the US military.

British intelligence officers were given written instructions that they could not "be seen to condone" torture and that they must not "engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners".

But they were also told they were not under any obligation to intervene to prevent detainees from being mistreated.

"Given that they are not within our ­custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this," the policy said.

The policy almost certainly breaches international human rights law, according to Philippe Sands QC, one of the world's leading experts in the field, because it takes no account of Britain's obligations to avoid complicity in torture under the UN convention against torture. Despite this, the secret policy went on to underpin British intelligence's ­relationships with a number of foreign intelligence agencies which had become the UK's allies in the "war against terror".
UK journalist Andy Worthington comments on the UK news:
In an article for the Guardian’s Comment is free, lawyers Philippe Sands and Alex Bailin explained why ministers should be worried, noting that, although the English courts have not interpreted Article 4 of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, which criminalises “an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture,” and that any future case for prosecution “will turn on its particular facts,” existing rulings in international law, decided before 2002, when the British government’s secret intelligence policy was formulated, “­provided guidance on the standard needed to avoid charges of complicity.”
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi

Andy Worthington has been following up the story of the death or "suicide" of Ibn al Shaykh al Libi last month, citing a story from an anonymous Libyan source who spoke with al-Libi not long before he died. The story was relayed to former Guantanamo prisoner, Omar Deghayes.
According to Deghayes, the Libyan source explained that al-Libi told him that, after his capture, when he was held briefly in Afghanistan (in the US prison at Kandahar airport, and on the USS Bataan, according to a previous report – PDF), he was rendered to Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Jordan, and was then rendered back to Afghanistan, where he was held in three separate prisons run by, or under the control of the CIA. He also explained that he was subjected to torture in all these locations, and provided disturbing details of how he was manipulated by his interrogators.
According to Worthington, one of the prisons al-Libi was held in Afghanistan was the mysterious Panjshir prison, about which very little is known. Furthermore, it appears al-Libi was moved around in part to be shown photographs of "terror suspects" per the information of the intelligence services in the different countries to which he was rendered. And it's highly likely these ID sessions were held under torture.

A Newsweek article back on May 25 gave further details on the U.S. response to al-Libi's death in a Libyan prison.
The Obama Administration is pressing the Libyan government to explain the reported prison death of a former CIA detainee—an incident that U.S. officials fear could reopen questions about the agency's "extraordinary rendition" program and further complicate the president's plans to shut down the Guantánamo Bay detention center.... U.S. officials are skeptical about the supposed suicide, which was first reported in a newspaper owned by Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi's son. Two weeks earlier, al-Libi was visited for the first time by human-rights workers investigating allegations that he had been tortured into making false claims connecting Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda....

Al-Libi's death highlights a predicament facing Obama officials: returning detainees to countries that practice torture.... a State Department human-rights report recently concluded that Libyan security forces "routinely tortured" prisoners by applying electric shocks, breaking fingers, pouring lemon juice on open wounds and burning them with cigarettes.
Rights Report: Zimbabwe Abuses Could Constitute Crimes Against Humanity (emphasis added)
The director of the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit, Tony Reeler, says a review of investigations by numerous rights groups shows that torture and gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe have been perpetrated for decades on what he calls an epidemic scale.

He says the abuses have been widespread and systematic which fulfills a definition of crimes against humanity.

He adds that victims have identified senior Zimbabwean officials as being behind the violence. And they have testified that torture centers were set up in government-owned buildings such as schools and clinics....

A researcher with South Africa's Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Glen Mpani, said a major impediment to peace and reconciliation is the culture of impunity that has evolved. "Zimbabwe has gone through processes of announcing national union and reconciliation in the past and these processes have all been geared towards providing impunity and allowing perpetrators to go scot-free," he said.
The Struggle for Accountability

ACLU Campaign for Accountability for Torture
We are finally beginning to learn the full scope of the Bush administration's torture program. Government documents show that hundreds of prisoners were tortured in the custody of the CIA and Department of Defense, some of them killed in the course of interrogations. Justice Department memos show that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The ACLU is committed to restoring the rule of law. We will fight for the disclosure of the torture files that are still secret. We will advocate for the victims of the Bush administration's unlawful policies. We will press Congress to appoint a select committee that can investigate the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative changes to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years are not repeated. And we will advocate for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to examine issues of criminal responsibility.

We can't sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative.
Send Evidence of Torture to the DOJ

Use this Online Tool to Send Letters to the Editor

Tell State Bar: Torture Lawyers Should Not Be Practicing Law in CaliforniaThe National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter has begun a campaign to investigate former DoD General Counsel William Haynes, who was directly responsible for helping implement the reverse-engineered SERE techniques at Department of Defense sites, such as Guantanamo, approving the use of such torture, and sending on such approval to his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, who signed off on the torture. You can read Mr. Haynes testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on his actions here (PDF, but an amazing read of an actual member of the neocon core leadership uncharacteristically called before Congress and made to account for his actions).
William Haynes was attorney for Donald Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense (DoD). His legal work is directly linked to the torture abuses that occurred at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. He is now certified to practice law in California, and is working for the Chevron Corporation. You can tell the state bar of California that they should take immediate action against Mr. Haynes....

We are calling on concerned residents of the United States to file this complaint (PDF) with the California State Bar. This Citizen Complaint demands that the State Bar at least investigate Haynes, and provide a written decision on his moral character.

We believe that torture is wrong. If you believe the same thing, then please fill out this form and mail it back to:

National Lawyers Guild
558 Capp St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
It's more clear than ever that citizens of the United States cannot sit back and wait for their elected representatives to do the right thing. We must make our voices here. It's our country, and if we do nothing, then we might as well hand it over to the torturers and their enablers. It won't take long to do any of these proposed actions, and you may make a difference that will change history.

Please get involved today!

For more that you can do, see the latest in Something the Dog Said's Daily Kos series, Weekly Torture Action Letter 14 - CIA IG Report.

Other Torture News Links:

Froomkin, How Cheney Bent DOJ to His Will

UN Rapporteur: Rumsfeld in Trouble

Bush Lawyer: Prolonged Indefinite Detention Is Already Widespread

Mirandizing prisoners
Has the Obama Justice Department ordered FBI agents to adopt a new policy of reading Miranda rights to high value detainees held at facilities in Afghanistan? The Weekly Standard reports that this is what’s happening, and Drudge is going nuts.

But Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd emails our reporter, Amanda Erickson, that while some of this has been going on, there’s been no overall policy change. He says:

“There has been no policy change and nor blanket instruction issued for FBI agents to Mirandize detainees overseas. While there have been specific cases in which FBI agents have Mirandized suspects overseas, at both Bagram and in other situations, in order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees.”
===== Thanks to Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bill Maher: We Need a Progressive Party

It takes a nighttime cable talk show host to say what a slew of talking head pundits, well-meaning bloggers, and witless politicians cannot bring themselves to say: Obama is no "socialist," he's not even a liberal. The Democrats are a center-right party, and the GOP have degenerated into a bunch of right-wing, flat-earth loonies. There is no political party that calls for cuts to defense, or tax hikes for the rich.

Maher's riff on Obama and the Democrats starts about 2:00 minutes into the video.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Torture Architects Mitchell & Jessen on the Road to Maui

Originally posted at Firedoglake

James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, the ex-military psychologists identified as primary architects of the CIA's "enhanced interrogations techniques" torture program, apparently did not spend all their time on the battlefield. As the Bush administration-approved coercive interrogation techniques spread from Guantanamo and Afghanistan to the new war in Iraq, Mitchell and Jessen were cashing in on their new-found influence.

According to a news blurb in October 2003, from conservative columnist John McCaslin, Mitchell and Jessen, along with fellow survival instructor David Dose (of whose Fort Sherman Academy in Idaho, more in a minute), were speakers at a "'Homeland Security Training Seminar,' billed as an 'intense three-day experiential training seminar. . . for avoiding and surviving hostage detention.'" The hoity-toity affair, for which federal and state officials were to receive a governmental per diem, was held at the Ritz Carlton resort on Maui.

The seminar was organized by Randall Spivey's Spokane-based company, RS Consulting. Spivey is a former hostage training instructor for the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, or SERE program, as well as chief of the Policy and Oversight Division at SERE's parent organization, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA). But perhaps most notoriously, Mr. Spivey was a principle member of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates. The relationship may have been even closer, as according to a Google search, both MJA and RS Consulting appear to have shared the same telephone number (see here and here).

How nice for Mr. Spivey to arrange a tony gig like this for his buddies from MJA. He also thought to invite along another friend, David Dose. Dose is another survival training instructor (and former "Defense Department consultant") who operates a private training firm in northern Idaho, Fort Sherman Academy (FSA). According to its website, FSA claims 50+ employees, who have worked in 27 different countries serving "clientele in multiple environments," including government, military, law enforcement, church/Mission groups, and NGOs and Corporations. Spivey worked as Dose's "security adviser" from 2002-04, the same period he was involved in helping institute the reverse-engineered SERE program as the torture program of choice for U.S. interrogators.

The thing about these contracting agencies is, as I pointed out in a recent article, they never seem to be far from allegations of corruption.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Support the Work of Andy Worthington, Author of "The Guantanamo Files"

It's amazing how much work journalists and bloggers have done to expose the workings of the U.S. torture program, and that of its allies, such as Great Britain. None have done more than U.K.-based journalist Andy Worthington. You can click here to go and support his work, or read on for the rest of this article.

[UPDATE: Andy Worthington has an exclusive story just up at his site -- WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. It "reveals new information, from a source in Libya, about Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the former US “ghost prisoner” who died in a Libyan jail last month, focusing, in particular, on the prisons in which he was held, and the ways in which torture was used by his interrogators."]

Andy is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK).

Besides over 500 blog pieces on Guantanamo and other torture stories, Andy has done a prodigious amount of original research, publishing last March the definitive list of prisoners held at Guantánamo prison. He also recently posted the results of his study of Guantanamo hunger strikers, Guantanamo’s Hidden History: Shocking Statistics Of Starvation. Andy's original reporting on the Binyam Mohamed case in Britain has been almost the sole source for information in the United States. His most recent posting on civil liberties in the UK, Law Lords Condemn UK’s Use of Secret Evidence And Control Orders, reports on a crucial British ruling against the use of "control orders" -- essentially a kind of preventive detention -- citing the courts finding:
By nine votes to nil, they ruled that imposing control orders breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, because a suspect held under a control order is not given “sufficient information about the allegations against him to enable him to give effective instructions to the special advocate assigned to him.”
In the U.S., or the blogosphere, you'd hardly know such an important decision took place.

That's why we need Andy Worthington, and he deserves your financial support. Andy joins the category of other fine web journalists, like Marcy Wheeler and Jason Leopold, who also have asked for and deserve the support of their web readership.

Donate today!

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Targets of Opportunity": Corruption, Contractors, and the Origins of the SERE Torture Program

Originally posted at Firedoglake

Leon Panetta's latest filing in the ACLU FOIA lawsuit had this curious revelation:

Officials of the National Security Council (NSC) determined it... essential to limit access to the information in the program. NSC officials established a special access program governing access to information relating to the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program.... The name of the special access program is itself classified SECRET.

In other words, the sensitive nature of what was the implementation of the CIA's "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," or torture program, was so extreme that it required a specially secret program all of its own to hide it from prying eyes. Regular safety mechanisms and classifications were deemed insufficient.

While Panetta's denial of documentation can be seen as an effort to hide the extent of the CIA's torture, and the identities of those who ordered the torture, it can also be understood as an effort to shield not just the identities of interrogators and torturers, but of a complex web of interconnected agencies and relationships, which, if traced back to its origins, would reveal the origins of the torture program itself. The genesis of Mitchell-Jessen is rooted in the ongoing world of clandestine warfare, special operations, and the use of contractors to both provide deniability, and to enable a coterie of military and ex-military and intelligence officials to enrich themselves at the taxpayers' benefit.

As one source, who wishes to remain anonymous, but has some knowledge of the individuals active in this arena, stated to me (emphasis added):

Understand, this resistance training 'mafia' goes deep into the "Black" world of training Special Operations Forces like Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Army Delta, et cetera, all of which must successfully complete their resistance training to become fully qualified Special Operators. Thus, they feel and act like elitists. 

For years the training of U.S. special forces, Air Force officers, and ultimately many other military personnel, who might be in danger of capture by hostile forces, was done by various "survival schools" run by the different armed services.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Iranian Revolution? Mullahs, Ahmadinejad Try to Steal Election

The above is a message supposedly from Iranian presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi (H/T Andrew Sullivan), in hiding after the Iranian government appears to have falsified election results to give the win to incumbent and widely-hated (by both U.S. left and right) Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in what appears to have been one of the most outrageous attempts at rigging an election by a major country since... Bush v Gore in 2000.

From Juan Cole's Informed Consent, which also has documented much of the evidence marking the election fraud.
On Saturday, thousands of pro-Mousavi protesters staged sit-down strikes, started fires in metal trash bins, and confronted police and Islamic Republic of Iran paramilitary forces, pelting them with stones. Riot control police were sent in on motorcycles, in heavy gear. Toward midnight Saturday, tear gas canisters were being lobbed at the thinning ranks of protesters, with at least one hit in the head and wounded by a canister. Observers in Iran said that Facebook was taken off line and that even cell phone service was interrupted. (The latter two techniques are further circumstantial evidence that the election was rigged, since the regime seems to fear it has something to fear from a free and open inquiry and from communication among voters.)

The demonstrations did not only take place in Tehran, as some observers have charged, but were also staged in parts of other cities (I've seen Tabriz and Rasht cited).
From what I have read and heard today, parts of the country appear under military control, universities have been attacked, deaths and many injuries have been reported.

I won't pretend I can cover such a fast-breaking and important story. Since cable news has been so tepid regarding their coverage, it's fallen to the Internet, and especially breaking Twitter commentary straight from Tehran and other Iranian cities, to bring us the latest on this huge story.

I will, like most of you, be glued to these various sites and others like them to piece together what is happening. How exciting it is to think the despicable Islamic Republic might fall! But what would replace it? Certainly not a craven U.S. client state. In many ways, Iran is the key country of the middle east, a giant, but with a society that has been terribly repressed for a generation. And there is no guarantee that the mullahs may not consolidate their bogus electoral results via a successful crackdown on the population, or via an outright military dictatorship.

While the U.S. has kept a relatively quiet stance thus far, you can be sure there is feverish work going on behind the scenes. We must also beware the possibility that the U.S. or Israel will use this situation to pursue their own ends, which would certainly only backfire in the long run (as did most of U.S. policy in Iran from 1953-1979). For now, we watch, we give our support, and await events. Hopefully, there will be more we can be called upon to do in coming days.

Photos of Iranian riot police in action, attacking the populace

Students show their injured bodies after police attack a student dorm at Isfahan University

BBC on the Iranian protest against the election fraud

Cliff Lyon at Daily Kos says the best Farsi websites to follow for latest news are Pyknet, PeykeIran, and News.Gooya. I can't read Farsi, so I can't say, but are added here as public service.

Jane Hamsher's Call to Block the War Supplemental

Call your Congressperson and tell them to vote no on the war supplemental funding bill, i.e., "war without end"!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Health Professionals: Take action to demand accountability for torture

The non-profit Bill of Rights Defense Committee has issued a series of open letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. These letters address this nation's ongoing struggle to own up to the use of torture, and hold accountable those government and private individuals that planned and implemented it.

There are letters specifically written for signing by legal professional, clergy and religious lay-leaders, educators, and the general public.

The following is the text of the letter for signature by health professionals, including physicians, psychologists, nurses, medical students, or other health professionals. Both this letter and links for the other categories of signatories can be found at this link. Please go and sign the letter today.
The Honorable Eric H. Holder
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We, the undersigned health professionals, write to share our concerns that your office’s reluctance to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate potential crimes by former officials involved in torturing detainees is endangering our nation’s stated fundamental values and our credibility as a nation that values and defends human rights.

The investigation of potential crimes, as others have shown, holds profound implications for our nation’s international legitimacy and future opportunities to credibly promote human rights. It also holds immense importance for the future historical record, as well as the necessary policy debates addressing detention, surveillance, and other violations of civil liberties under the Obama administration going forward.

Our concern here is more specific, reflecting our particular expertise as health professionals. Some mental health professionals and physicians abandoned our profession’s ethical commitment to “do no harm” and instead facilitated the abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. custody.

For example, when detainees were waterboarded, or shackled by their hands and feet to induce sleep deprivation, medical personnel and psychologists calibrated the intensity of abuse to ensure that it could continue. In addition, some military and intelligence psychologists helped design, conduct, and teach abusive interrogation techniques used by the CIA and Department of Defense.

Our professions’ participation in these abuses is an appalling affront to not only our ethical code, but also the law. Efforts within our professions to hold our members accountable for their role in torture are part of the solution, but do not complete it. Nor can those efforts reach other officials outside our professions who also enabled or conducted detainee abuse. Until our nation investigates and prosecutes those responsible for torturing detainees, the future use of torture will remain a risk facing our nation, our professions, and their respective values.

We urge you, in your capacity as our nation’s senior prosecutor, to restore the rule of law by ensuring its equal application to all.

Respectfully submitted,
The undersigned health professionals

cc: [members of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence]
H/T to Stephen Soldz for notification of this campaign, and to both him and Physicians for Human Rights for their assistance in drafting the letter above.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Starvation, Suicide, Torture, Not Terrorism, Is the Legacy of Guantanamo

From almost the moment that Camp X-Ray opened, prisoners embarked on hunger strikes as the only means available to protest about the conditions of their detention: specifically, their day-to-day treatment, the treatment of the Koran, and the crushing uncertainty of their fate, as they remained imprisoned without charge and without trial, with the ever-present possibility that they would be held for the rest of their lives.
Andy Worthington has released the results of an important investigation he undertook on treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo, Guantanamo’s Hidden History: Shocking Statistics Of Starvation (his article introducing it is here).

Worthington shows how the ban on pictures of Guantanamo prisoners, many of them "from January 2002, when the prison opened, until February 2007, when these particular records came to an end, one in ten of the total population — 80 prisoners in total — weighed, at some point, less than 112 pounds (eight stone, or 50 kg), and 20 of these prisoners weighed less than 98 pounds (seven stone, or 44 kg)." Andy believes that if the world had clear evidence of the pain and suffering these men have endured by their illegal imprisonment and torture, the calls to shut down Gitmo would have prevailed long ago. -- It's hard to say, the world has become so brutalized, the American population so numbed. But I think Worthington makes a powerful point.

The report comes on the heels of the first death at the prison camp under President Obama's watch:
A military statement said 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, also known as Al Hanashi, "died of an apparent suicide" on Monday night, but did not say specifically how he died.

Human rights groups condemned the death and said it underlined the need to end the system of "indefinite detention" at the prison camp that opened in 2002 under the Bush administration to hold terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that killed 3,000 people.
Salih's death comes two years after the death of Saudi prisoner and another hunger-striker, Abdul Rahman al-Amri.

Salih's death coincides also with the retraction by the New York Times of their “1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds” article, which fueled the right-wing assertion that closing Guantanamo or freeing prisoners, even sending them to trial in the U.S., would somehow be like sending legions of terrorists to join anti-American jihad. Even though the recidivism rate from Guantanamo is something closer to 4% (not 14%), the Times didn't get around to setting the story straight until last week.

Of course the whole Pentagon study upon which the Times reporter relied is bogus. As Bill Van Auken noted the other day, that in an earlier, similar study by the Pentagon "eight of the 15 described as resuming terrorism were accused of nothing more than condemning their treatment at Guantánamo, an act that the Pentagon portrayed as terrorist propaganda."
Also included were five Uighurs -— ethnic Chinese Muslims -— who were released in 2006 after three years in Guantánamo and sent to a refugee camp in Albania. The Pentagon itself acknowledged that they had been improperly classified as "enemy combatants" and there is no evidence whatsoever that they engaged in terrorist activity either before or after their incarceration at Guantánamo. The reason they were included among those accused of carrying out "anti-coalition militant activity" is that one of them wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times urging the US Congress to protect habeas corpus.
Btw, the follow-up to the tragicomedy of the NY Times semi-retraction concers the Uighurs, with a report that Obama is paying the small South Seas island country Palau $200 million dollars to settle these stateless people. While the Uighurs settle on their putative St. Helena, I suppose the citizens of Peoria (symbolically speaking) can sleep better in their beds tonight.

Beyond this latest circus, the only image left from the U.S. experiment of opening a gulag at Guantanamo is one of tragedy and human misery. If Obama gets his way, it will be closed. But the show will only move even further off-shore, to Bagram prison in Afghanistan, or other foreign prisons, where now the U.S. says it will send more and more of its "War on Terror" prisoners -- just like "the good old days," as Alfred McCoy points out in an excellent article over at TomDispatch, "Confronting the CIA's Mind Maze":
In retrospect, it may become ever more apparent that the real aberration of the Bush years lay not in torture policies per se, but in the President's order that the CIA should operate its own torture prisons. The advantage of the bipartisan torture consensus of the Cold War era was, of course, that it did a remarkably good job most of the time of insulating Washington from the taint of torture, which was sometimes remarkably widely practiced.

There are already some clear signs of a policy shift in this direction in the Obama era. Since mid-2008, U.S. intelligence has captured a half-dozen al-Qaeda suspects and, instead of shipping them to Guantanamo or to CIA secret prisons, has had them interrogated by allied Middle Eastern intelligence agencies. Showing that this policy is again bipartisan, Obama's new CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the Agency would continue to engage in the rendition of terror suspects to allies like Libya, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia where we can, as he put it, "rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment." Showing the quality of such treatment, Time magazine reported on May 24th that Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who famously confessed under torture that Saddam Hussein had provided al-Qaeda with chemical weapons and later admitted his lie to Senate investigators, had committed "suicide" in a Libyan cell....

This time around, however, a long-distance torture policy may not provide the same insulation as in the past for Washington. Any retreat into torture by remote-control is, in fact, only likely to produce the next scandal that will do yet more damage to America's international standing.

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